The European Parliament on Wednesday adopted a report by Croatian MEP Tonino Picula on enlargement policy, which recommends measures to speed up the process, including decision-making on the opening of chapters in accession talks by a qualified majority.
The report, adopted by 502 votes in favour, 75 against and 61 abstentions, represents the European Parliament’s recommendation to the Council, the Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for a new EU enlargement strategy.
It says that enlargement is the single most effective EU foreign policy instrument and one of the Union’s most successful policies, and remains a strategic, future-oriented geopolitical investment in peace, security, stability and prosperity on the European continent and the EU’s strongest geopolitical tool.
Picula said he would like to see enlargement policy return to the mainstream of the interest of the EU institutions because in that way the EU would indeed be able to influence geopolitical circumstances. He noted that the Russian invasion of Ukraine had increased the interest in multilateral problem resolution and that this momentum should be seized.
“This situation is a welcome opportunity to renew interest in enlargement as such. Unfortunately, the war against Ukraine has shown the EU that, with its stagnant attitude towards the neighbourhood which craves for membership, it may have contributed to their weakness and opened up room for geopolitical rivals to be more active and aggressive,” the Croatian MEP said.
The report says that the Council has failed the membership candidates because it blocked the accession process and failed to deliver on the promises made by the EU long ago, which led to a delay in the opening of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. The EU’s lack of action and credibility has created a vacuum and opened up space for Russia, China and other malicious third actors, it adds.
The European Parliament recommends setting a deadline for the completion of talks with countries aspiring to join the EU. Decisions on the start of negotiations and the closing of chapters would be taken by a qualified majority, while a final decision on enlargement would continue to be adopted unanimously.
The report notes that member states should refrain from using unresolved bilateral and regional disputes to block the accession process for candidate countries. Each candidate’s progress would be evaluated individually.
The report underlines that countries aspiring to join the EU need to align with the EU’s foreign and security policy.
In this context, Serbia was urged to follow the EU’s sanctions and general policy on Russia and show progress in democracy and the rule of law and embrace the EU’s values and priorities. On the other hand, the Commission and the Council were called upon to reconsider any bilateral funding and EU funding intended for Serbia that would benefit the Serbian authorities, notably funding under the economic and investment plan for the Western Balkans.